Friday, 28 April 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) - Film Review



 Review:
*Originally written April 28th, 2017*

I was expecting to enjoy Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but I did not expect to like it anywhere near this much. The first Guardians was Marvel's weirdest, strangest and riskiest film yet, and it somehow paid off and delivered one of their best films. Vol. 2 gives us more of the same, but improves on everything. The same characters we loved are here, but it's bigger, better and packs a far more emotional punch.

Straight of the bat, Vol. 2 is easily Marvel's most visual beautiful film yet. I've had a bit of a problem with a few of the films in the MCU looking like expensive episodes of TV (The 2 Avengers films are the biggest offenders of this), but the Guardians of the Galaxy films really pack a gorgeous, vibrant and cinematic punch. There some wonderfully designed creatures, planets and the special effects are the strongest yet. 


From the opening scene I fell in love with Guardians 2. From the prologue returning us back to Earth with a flashback to a scene of Quill's mother and father (Kurt Russell's Ego), I knew I was going to love it. Last year had Deadpool with it's hilarious opening credits, but this year belongs to Guardians 2. I'll be amazed if I see a more memorable opening credit sequence this year. 

Baby Groot
We're once again given another excellent soundtrack of classic rock music with 'Awesome Mix Vol. 2' that perfectly captures the tone of the series and cements some more emotional scenes that play throughout. Tyler Bate's score is sadly lost in the mix and extremely forgettable like most Marvel scores shamely are, but it at least makes up for this with a lot more tracks I'll be adding to my Spotify playlist. 

Despite primarily being a comedy (It is very funny), Guardians 2 does go to some really dark places I had no idea it would go to, making for a surprisingly horrific reveal towards the end that really surprised me. This time around it is a lot more character focused, you learn a lot more about Chris Pratt's Peter Quill/Star-Lord's heritage, which brings an emotional punch to the proceedings.
 

Kurt Russell steals the show as Ego 'The Living Planet', Russell's grandiose narcissism was great to watch as was his bond with Peter, which involved some very touching moments. I think the Guardians series might be the only franchise to be able to get away with making a character an actual planet and have it work.

The big thing that worried me going in was Baby Groot. In the trailers he was cute and adorable, but I was concerned he would be overused and shoved in every scene to sell toys, almost like a modern day Jar-Jar. I'll add I say this while I look to my right and see a Baby Groot Pop-Vinyl standing in front of my Blu-rays. Thankfully, Groot is adorable, but not used anywhere near as much as I thought he would be. Which is a good thing. He's used sparingly and effectively, he's responsible for some of the films funniest moments, and yes, he is adorable.

Chris Pratt and Kurt Russell
On top of the usual members of the team, Drax, Gomora, Rocket, there are new members added to the team. Surprisingly, they are minor villains in the previous film. Michael Rooker's Yondu and Karen Gillan's Nebula. Both characters are greatly expanded with more depth, Nebula is given a really sad back story and Yondu's explanation for keeping Peter for many years is given a touching reason. 

I can't mention it without spoilers, but for the first time in Marvel's film history, they have finally given us a truly great and memorable villain, but I can't talk about it without spoiling it, so you just gotta trust me. Where Guardians does falter though is its length. This does feel long, longer than it needs to be. Aside from that, there was one scene of weird and sadistic brutality from some of the good guys as they kill over a hundred poeple one by one as they gleefully watch and laugh which didn't sit quite right with me.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 isn't quite a masterpiece, but it is a triumph from Marvel, a richer, bigger and much improved sequel that packs a hell of an emotional punch.  

9/10 Dans

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 is out now in cinemas in the UK
Watch the trailer below:

Follow us:
Twitter: @FigmentReviews, @DanBremner1996 and @ArronRoke91
Instagram: @DanBremner and @ArronRoke
YouTube: Figment Reviews
Letterboxd: Dan and Arron 

Facebook
 

  

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Need for Speed (2014) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written May 7th, 2015*

Need For Speed is the first in the franchise of films based on EA's Need For Speed video-games. The first thought you would have is "Based on a video-game it must suck", but thankfully due to Aaron Paul's performance and some extremely impressive practical effects and lack of CGI, Need For Speed is actually a very solid adaptation.

Aaron Paul plays Tobey Marshall a petrol-head who is framed by Dino Brewster (Dominic Cooper) for the death of his friend after a street race gone wrong. After being released from prison he and Julia (Imogen Poots) join a cross country race in order to exact revenge on Dino.

Practical car stunts
While the plot sounds relatively simple, it takes a really long time to get to the actually race. About an hour is given to building Aaron Paul's character, which is a nice change of pace from the way these films usually are, but at the same time it extends the running time of the film to a breaking point. A good 30 minutes of this film could have been cut.

The cast is pretty impressive. Aaron Paul is excellent and handles his first post Breaking Bad role extremely well, he isn't as good as he is in that, but he displays emotion and proves he can be a leading man for films. Imogen Poots is just there, she's fine and has solid Chemistry with Paul. Cooper is forgettable and pretty boring as the antagonist. The supporting cast is really strange, for some reason Michael Keaton is in this, he's OK and has some charisma and fun with his role, but he's mostly a non-entity.

Aside from Aaron Paul, the best and most surprising part of Need For Speed is its the very impressive direction and lack of CGI and a lot of practical effects, which is sadly far too underused these days. It makes the action and racing scenes that much better, you can really tell these were real cars getting trashed and destroyed.

Aaron Paul
People will compare this to Fast and Furious, which is a very fair comparison, but I felt that Need for Speed handled street racing far better than any of the Furious films. In all honesty the Fast and Furious films were never any good until they ditched the racing for over-the-top action and brought in The Rock, which fared the series much better than the Point Break rip-off story with increasingly worse sequels until the fifth.

Need For Speed might lack a strong script and goes on far too long, but thanks to the inclusion of Aaron Paul and practical effects, it's kept from being the rubbish everyone expected it to be. There's room for improvement and there is a sequel in the works, which is set in China. I just hope Aaron Paul's back for it.

6/10 Dans

Need for Speed is out now on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
Watch the trailer below:

Follow us:
Twitter: @FigmentReviews, @DanBremner1996 and @ArronRoke91
Instagram: @DanBremner and @ArronRoke
YouTube: Figment Reviews
Letterboxd: Dan and Arron 

Facebook
 

Monday, 24 April 2017

Mindhorn (2017) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written April 24th, 2017*

During Mindhorn I think I discovered a type of comedy character that I love, and that's the washed-up, has-been celebrity trying to recapture former glories. From Kenny Powers, to Alan Partridge, and now, Richard Thorncroft.

Julian Barratt writes and stars in Mindhorn, a British comedy about a washed-up, has-been narcissistic actor who used to play a detective in an old campy, but popular sci-fi detective drama. In the modern day, Barrat's Richard Thorncroft is called back to play Mindhorn in real life in order to capture a murderer in the Isle of Man after the killer (Believing him to be a real detective), will only talk to Mindhorn.

There are obvious shades of Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa here, another comedy where a has-been celebrity is called into a dangerous situation in order to diffuse a dangerous situation and become the hero and joke of the story. Thankfully, Mindhorn is very, very funny and stands on its own as one of the funniest British comedies in recent years.

Barratt plays it wonderfully as Thorncroft, an actor so desperate to reclaim the vanity of his glory years. Thorncroft isn't the most likeable of characters to root for, but Barratt's performance, is funny, desperate and pathetic enough to get us to go along with his journey of finding the murderer.

Julian Barratt as Mindhorn
Knowing nothing about this film at all going in (I don't think I've even seen a trailer), I was surprised by the amount of cameos involved. I won't spoil all of them, but I was drawing comparisons to Alpha Papa very early on in the film, so it was strange to see Steve Coogan pop up. There's a variety of funny and quirky side-characters for Thorncroft to bounce off and they were mostly pretty great. Simon Farnaby as Thorncroft's ex-stuntman was the most obvious highlight.

Where Mindhorn faltered for me, as do most British comedies, is with its pacing. Despite being less than 90 minutes, Mindhorn does feel like it stretches out its premise to breaking point at some scenes, and feels it overindulges in its plot in order to get this thing to a reasonable runtime. When the film did start to lose me, I was brought back in frequently, but it did lose me a few times. There's also some strange and misguided tonal shifts towards the end that felt unnecessary and quite dark for no real reason.

Mindhorn might have a couple of issues, but for the most part, it's one of the funniest British comedies I've seen in a while and Julian Barratt's performance is seriously great. I honestly wouldn't mind seeing a franchise out of the character of Richard Thorncroft/Mindhorn.

7/10 Dans

Mindhorn is out May 5th in cinemas in the UK
Watch the trailer below:

Follow us:
Twitter: @FigmentReviews, @DanBremner1996 and @ArronRoke91
Instagram: @DanBremner and @ArronRoke
YouTube: Figment Reviews
Letterboxd: Dan and Arron 

Facebook
  
 

Thor: The Dark World (2013) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written April 24th, 2017*

I've never really got on with either of the Thor films. I like the character a lot and Chris Hemsworth is fantastic, but the films he star in have been extremely lacklustre. I find Thor: The Dark World to easily be the one of the weakest entries in the entire MCU for many reasons.

Where Dark World at least improves on the first is at least in its look. The style of Asgard is much more pleasing to the eye and natural than the ugly, CGI monstrosity of the first, it reminds me of a more Barbarain society than the tacky nonsense it used to look like.

There are also some decent and creative scenes of action. The opening fight was cool and I loved the teleporting weirdness of the finale in London. It's just a shame that none of the action held any kind of emotional weight and are held down by all the terrible and annoying humour shoved in. 

Natalie Portman and Tom Hiddleston
The excessive and lame humour was my biggest problem of Avengers: Age of Ultron and Dark World seems to be a brief glimpse of that. So much of the dialogue seems like some sort of cringe-worthy joke. There are a couple that land (Thor getting on the tube in London is gold), but that far outweighs the utter tripe that happens.

Most offensive of anything in the entire MCU has to be Kat Denning's Darcy, the most annoying character I can think of in a mainstream film. Everything she says is a groan-inducing joke. The worst of which was during the final battle where she calls Thor's hammer "Meow Meow", I honestly wanted to turn the film off and snap the disc at that point. It's been a while, but I don't remember her being that awful in the first.

After the events of the first Avengers, Stellan Skarsgard has been reduced to some kind of mentally challenged joke. A further example of the lame humour is when he's reduced being caught by the news dancing naked around Stonehenge. It's such a shame to see such a respectable actor reduced to.. that.

Chris Hemsworth
Natalie Portman's Jane Foster is just merely there. She's given stuff to do, not a lot of it interesting. It seems like she's out of the MCU now, so all her screentime with Thor seems to have been wasted. She does at least have a couple of decent scenes with Chris O'Dowd, who appears in a small role.

Marvel does follow its cliche routine of a gifted actor given a thankless and wasted villain role.
Christopher Ecclestone's Malekith might be the most bland bad guy to come out of Marvel's roster yet. I've just finished watching the film and I'm having a huge problem trying to pick out a single interesting or standout moment he had. Pathetic.

The film does leave Asgard in an interesting place that I'm looking forward to seeing in Thor: Ragnorak (Which looks a lot better than the previous 2 based on the trailers). This is the first time I'd seen this in nearly 4 years, but I forgot just how little Loki does in this film, the performance was fun as usual, but it feels he's broken out of prison and written out fairly quickly. His scenes with Thor were at least some of the highlights of Dark World.

I also have to commend Dark World for at least being one of the shortest films in MCU at just 105 minutes before credits, as these films seem to usually be leaning towards the two and a half hour mark. So it has that going towards it, I guess?

Thor: The Dark World is easily one of the weakest MCU films so far, bland, dull and filled to the brim with so much deeply lame and unfunny humour. I hope Ragnorak is better than this, and please, dear god, no Kat Dennings.

4/10 Dans

Thor: The Dark World is out now on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
Watch the trailer below:

Follow us:
Twitter: @FigmentReviews, @DanBremner1996 and @ArronRoke91
Instagram: @DanBremner and @ArronRoke
YouTube: Figment Reviews
Letterboxd: Dan and Arron 

Facebook
  
 

Unforgettable (2017) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written April 24th, 2017*

Dear sweet Christ. Where do I begin with 'Unforgettable'? The latest film in a line of cheap, poorly made Lifetime films that I'm amazed managed to be released in theaters and get its cast. It's along the same lines as The Girl on the Train, The Boy Next Door and many, many others. They're cheap garbage that really deserve to be played late at night on Channel 5 or shown edited in the afternoon for middle aged women.

Every aspect of this "film" is outrageously poor. The editing is utter garbage, one scene during a dinner where the lead character has flashes of seeing a random woman as another character gave me brain damage. There's no shortage or random and poorly done scenes that come off as laughable to choose from.

Katherine Heigl
It has a trashy premise. A woman finds out her ex-husband is getting engaged and goes to any means possible to destroy the relationship. It goes to some insane places, and not in a good way. Not a single moment feels genuine or thrilling, in fact, it is mostly just laughably bad. I burst out laughing more than a few times, and not with the film, but at it.

My favourite scene was easily when Rosario Dawson is having sex with her husband in a toilet and the shots cut between that and the crazy ex, Katherine Heigl masturbating while messaging Dawson's ex boyfriend through the most innacurate Facebook messenger I've ever seen displayed on film.

All the performances are atrocious. Heigl plays it as a completely one note, cold, heartless psychopath. There is no depth to her character at all, or any of the characters. Every female character is awfully written, they all just talk about men all the time. The entire premise of the film is about two women fighting over one man. It's some of the most absurdy misogynist films I've ever seen in a cinema. The most surprising part about this whole mess is when I found out it was both written and directed by women? What the fuck?

Rosario Dawson and Katherine Heigl
I said this was like a cheap Lifetime film, and it shows just by looking at it. The direction is flat and lifeless, lacks any kind of cinematic flare or style. It's just bland and feels like it belongs on TV. It reminded me of a trashy film I'd come downstairs and find on TV at 1am on something like the Movies 24/7 channel.

The only thing that mildly impressed me was the score by Toby Chu, which is the only thing that stood out and deserved to be in a much better film. The music used in the film is utter trash too, it gave me horrific flashbacks to watching the Fifty Shades films. Yeah, you know what kind of music I mean.

Unforgettable is ironically the complete opposite of its title. Bland, generic, stupid, boring, mind-numbingly dull, one-note and 100% forgettable. A strong contender for worst film of 2017.

1/10 Dans

Unforgettable is out now in cinemas in the UK
Watch the trailer below:

Follow us:
Twitter: @FigmentReviews, @DanBremner1996 and @ArronRoke91
Instagram: @DanBremner and @ArronRoke
YouTube: Figment Reviews
Letterboxd: Dan and Arron 

Facebook
  

Sunday, 23 April 2017

The Guest (2014) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written September 22nd, 2015*

Even I'm quite amazed at myself for watching The Guest so many times this year and the laws of diminishing returns have not set in, each time I watch it, I either enjoy it the same or even more. Finally watching it again today on Blu-ray for the first time, I loved it even more. I've seen it enough times now (5) that I feel comfortable to put it in my top 10 of all-time.

The Guest is just a complete blast to watch, it's 90 minutes of balls-out-the-bath, self aware chaos that builds to one of best final acts of any film I've seen in a long time. What I love about The Guest is that it is a film that doesn't really belong to one genre, the first hour or so is a mystery thriller, while the last half hour is an action slasher with horror elements. It's an 80's throwback, it even looks like it could have been filmed in the early 90's, but the Blu-ray looks gorgeous, full on fine detail and deep blacks, the scenes set in the New Mexico desert look beautiful and the night scenes that have a Drive style neon color scheme looks stunning.

Dan Stevens
The story is fairly standard and not very complex. David (Dan Stevens) comes to the Peterson family claiming to be a friend of their recently deceased son, and when bodies start to pile up around town, the daughter Anna (Maika Monroe) begins to suspect that David isn't who he says he is.

The great thing about The Guest is just how self aware it is. It knows it's silly and embraces it, everyone seems to be in on the joke, which has made it hard for a lot of people to see what the film was going for. Much like Adam Wingard's previous film 'You're Next', which I didn't like as much as this, but still liked, it embraces its genre cliches, rather than trying to do something new. The only thing new The Guest provides is an amazing 80's soundtrack full of bands like Clan of Xymax, The Sisters of Mercy and SURVIVE. Steve Moore's Carpenter-esque score also added so much to the tone of the film.

Maika Monroe
The performances are great, especially Dan Stevens as David, who plays it perfectly as the charismatic man who can seem to be like the perfect gentleman and everyone's best friend, but then is insanely believable as a guy who is actually a complete psychopath. Maika Monroe was also excellent, I loved her more in It Follows, but I guess that's because she was the main focus of the film and was given more opportunity to act there, although that doesn't mean she was any less great here. Lance Riddick pops up for a little while too as a military leader of some sort too, and he was awesome, just such a joy to watch, watch the horror maze scene and you tell me he wasn't in on the joke. The main performance that mainly hammed it up was the father of the Peterson family, his performance was hilarious and over the top.

Adam Wingard shoots the film really well, it has a unique visual style and each action scene was memorable, even if for darkly comical reasons (The restaurant scene). Who ever thought the finale should have taken place in a haunted maze meant for a school dance was a genius, and whomever chose the song 'Antonio (Berlin Breakdown Version)' by Annie couldn't have found a better song for the scene if he tried. The very ending is amazing too, clearly paying homage to 80's slasher films and hinting that David is essentially an unkillable slasher villain.

The Guest is the most fun films I've watched such a long time, an amazing homage to 80's slasher films and thrillers with a gorgeous soundtrack and hypnotic performance from Dan Stevens

10/10 Dans

The Guest is out now on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
Watch the trailer below:

Follow us:
Twitter: @FigmentReviews, @DanBremner1996 and @ArronRoke91
Instagram: @DanBremner and @ArronRoke
YouTube: Figment Reviews
Letterboxd: Dan and Arron 

Facebook
 
 

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Fast and Furious 8 (2017) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written April 20th, 2017*

The Fast and Furious franchise continues to be the most fascinating film series to come out of Hollywood. We are so far removed from the extremely lame street-racing days of the early 2000's and they've fully embraced the utter absurdity of what Fast and Furious means these days.

You know exactly what to expect from this series by now. A nonsensical amount of action scenes and defying any kind of logic known to man. If you go in expecting realism, well, then you look stupider than the films. These films do it right, they have likeable casts, creative and fun action that is surprisingly unique and inspired. It's a far cry from the garbage Michael Bay shits out and how summer blockbuster films should be done.

Charlize Theron and Vin Diesel
This time around Vin Diesel's Dominic Toretto goes rogue and turns on his family due to the influence of cyber terrorist 'Cypher' played by Charlize Theron. Dom's family and a few new members to the team (Including Furious 7's villain Jason Statham) go on a mission to get Dom back and stop Cypher.

It's simple stuff that I'm amazed managed to last 135 minutes, but it did and that runtime flew by. 8 films into this franchise now and they're still topping themselves with such creatively fun action scenes. Furious 8 is probably the most insane one yet. The New York set-piece with thousands of "zombie" cars was a particular standout, but the final act involves some utter chaos. F. Gary Grey does a great job filming such carnage, no shakey-cam bullshit. There's a lot of CGI, some of which is very noticeable, but what they used it for would have been borderline impossible to do practically, so I can forgive it.

There might be a little bit of stockholm syndrome involved with me and these characters at this point, but I was genuinely interested when the trailers revealed Dom was going rogue and turning on his family. There was a lot of theories online about why he does it (Including one where he might actually be a Terminator), the most obvious one seemed that Cypher has Paul Walker and his family hostage, which thankfully wasn't the case. What they did do worked suprisingly well, it even goes to some pretty dark places for such a stupid film.

Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson
The Paul Walker situation is handled with as much care as they could. Walker isn't replaced on the team and he's nowhere to be seen. There are some mentions of him and a really, really weird tribute to him at the end, which makes no sense in the Fast and Furious universe. Still, they addressed it and it was fine for the most part.

Charlize Theron's hacker terrorist was merely okay. Her performance was decent, she does the ice-cold monster thing very well, it's just a shame and a wasted opportunity that not once in the film does she get the chance to drive a vehicle or get involved in an action scene at all, except for when she's hacking things on They've left it open for her to return to the franchise, so I hope she gets more to do if she is to return.

The standouts are by far The Rock and Jason Statham, who work extremely well together. Statham even has the honour of the most batshit insane action scene of the entire film, which is saying something. The rest of the cast do their thing. I found a couple of the members really annoying, but that's more due to the writers than the performances. There's the odd lame joke that really falls flat, which reminded me a lot of the Marvel films. This is a problem I've had with the series since Fast 5, but in all honesty, I laughed at this one more than I have with any of the others, so it's a step in the right direction.

Kurt Russell (Sadly not in drag)
Helen Mirren also has a small, but scene stealing role as the mother of Jason Statham and Luke Evan's Shaw Brothers, although her accent is a bit over the top and comical. She's another character who's introduced to, I assume, be expanded on in future films. I wouldn't even mind an entire spin-off based around the Shaw family at this point.

I'm not entirely sure if I preferred Furious 8 to the previous film or not. 7 certainly had more heart and emotion due to Paul Walker's death, but Furious 8 more than makes up for it with everything else. I'm still really excited to see where the franchise goes next. For the past 2 films I've said "There can't be anything left they can do", but for 2 films running now they've proved me wrong. Keep them coming. Hollywood's most interesting franchise.

Fast and Furious 8 is exactly what you'd expect from the franchise at this point. If you're looking for a smart, meaningful and realistic film, then just fuck off, but if you're looking for a loud, fun, creative, funny and insanely entertaining film, then Furious 8 is exactly what you need.

8/10 Dans

Fast and Furious 8 is out now in cinemas in the UK
Watch the trailer below:

Follow us:
Twitter: @FigmentReviews, @DanBremner1996 and @ArronRoke91
Instagram: @DanBremner and @ArronRoke
YouTube: Figment Reviews
Letterboxd: Dan and Arron 

Facebook
  
 

Raw (2016) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written April 20th, 2017*

I really have no idea how to go about reviewing 'Raw' a French, twisted, disgusting, coming-of-age arthouse drama-horror. It's abstract, weird, unique and unlike anything I've ever seen.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this. The screenings in my area were very limited. I managed to see the only one listed, and I'm so glad I did. For the second year running, my favourite horror film of the year might just be about female cannibals.

Julia Ducournau's directorial debut is something of wonder. I went in completely blind and was just transfixed on everything happening in screen. The film runs on a slow, but hypnotic pace, much like The Neon Demon or Under the Skin. The cinematography is beautiful. Among the bleak outdoor shots, there lies scenes with such candy coloured horror, much like Suspiria.

Garance Marillier being forced to eat meat

This takes its cannibilism concept and just runs with out. It takes place in a very strange and odd world. The vetinary school the majority of the story takes place is obviously one of absurd exaggeration. The hazing the lead character goes through is disgusting, harsh and deeply unsettling. It's incredible that not a single teacher at this school hasn't shut it down.

The cannibalism itself is some of the most disgusting things I've ever witness in a theater. It takes a lot for a film to make me feel squemish, but Raw managed to hit a nerve with me due to its graphic nature. Jim Williams wonderfully unsettling score only added to the disturbing events unfolding onscreen, delivering a gorgeous and classic horror-synth score that had shades of It Follows and Maniac.

Garance Marillier gives an incredible lead performance as a shy, oppressed girl who eventually goes on a journey of self-discovery, family secrets and cannibilism. I'd never heard of this actress before, but my god, I cannot wait to see her in more stuff.

Garance Marillier gobbling up

This isn't going to be for everyone, that's for sure. Things are very abstract and weird. The film moves from scene to scene without much explanation. I was left a little confused at times at why people do what they do, but for me, it all made sense by the end.

Raw is one of the most disgusting, visceral and hypnotic things I've ever seen. A beautiful, haunting and transfixing experience unlike any other. If I see a better horror film in 2017, I will be amazed.

10/10 Dans

Raw is out now in cinemas in the UK
Watch the trailer below:


Follow us:
Twitter: @FigmentReviews, @DanBremner1996 and @ArronRoke91
Instagram: @DanBremner and @ArronRoke
YouTube: Figment Reviews
Letterboxd: Dan and Arron 

Facebook
  
 

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Passengers (2016) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written December 21st, 2016*

I'll be honest, I really enjoyed the first hour of Passengers or so, and I was expecting things to start wrapping up, but then I was made aware that was only half way into it. Then everything dawned on me. This was a complete mess.

I was fairly looking forward to Passengers. Sure, it was based purely on my love of Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, but nothing could have prepared me for how misguided and creepy this sci-fi romance was.

The relationship between Lawrence and Pratt at the centre of this is deeply misguided, disturbing and flawed. We are meant to feel sorry for Pratt due to his intense lonliness of being stuck in space for so long, which makes him get Jennifer Lawrence involved. I have huge soft-spot for the loveable goofball that is Chris Pratt, but I couldn't excuse what a monstorous decision his character makes here. It took me a little while to see the implications of what he did, but once I did, it made it the most disturbing romance film I've seen since Fifty Shades of Grey.

It's a shame too. I'm a sucker for this simple concept genre films that explore a fairly straight-forward idea, but with an execution this flawed it made it hard to get behind Passengers. I would be lying if I said I didn't have fun with it though. The opening act features only Chris Pratt and the robot bartender played by a scene-stealing Martin Sheen.

It was a fairly ballsy move to not have one of your two main actors selling the film to show up till 40 minutes in, but that's where Passengers shined. When it was simply Chris Pratt slowly growing more and more isolated. We see him make the most of the massive space station, try and find a way to escape, then finally realize this situation is hopeless and Pratt really sells it. He also makes for some very funny scenes, especially between him and Sheen.

The Avalon space station
I'm not saying Lawrence ruins it when she joins. She gives a usually reliable performance, but the writing of her character completely ruins it. Where they end up with her character at the end feels forced and insanely unbelievable based on the events we've seen up to the finale. It was borderline insane.

Another disappoint in the lack of surprises. The trailers pretty much give away anything interesting from the film. There's no twist or unexpected plot developments. It just goes where you expect it to before fizzling out and ending. I'd say the closest thing to a surprise Passengers has up its sleeve is an appearance from an actor which feels like it's meant to be a big reveal, but is in all the trailers so loses its impact.

Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence
While I'd say the direction lacked in sort of energy or uniqueness, it at least does look nice and has some visually interesting stuff. The space station looks like some weird cross between The Shining and 2001: A Space Odyssey. The references to The Shining are pretty clear, including Martin Sheen's bartender android. I was surprised at how big the budget was for this thing, considering it only has about 4 actors in it for the most part, but there are some standout visuals that reminded me of the much better Sunshine. The most memorable thing in terms of visuals had to be the zero gravity swimming pool scene, which was one of the more creative things here.

Passengers is a huge disappointment. A huge let-down from the sci-fi romance I was expecting. I wanted a charming and heartfelt romance in a sci-fi setting, instead what I got was a creepy, misguided and manipulative film that wastes the talents of Lawrence, Pratt and its concept.

4/10 Dans

Passengers is out now on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD now inthe UK
Watch the trailer below:

Follow us:
Twitter: @FigmentReviews, @DanBremner1996 and @ArronRoke91
Instagram: @DanBremner and @ArronRoke
YouTube: Figment Reviews
Letterboxd: Dan and Arron 

Facebook
  

 

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) (Theatrical Cut) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written on March 25th, 2016*

Well, here we are, after years of waiting, so much hype, so much backlash and some mixed trailers, the movie fight of the century is here, and it's just OK? It's sure looking to be the most divisive and polarizing film of the year, which is completely well founded. Batman v Superman is entertaining, it even has moments of greatness, but is just far too packed with too much for it to be a great film.

After the events of Man of Steel, mankind is divided by the presence of Superman, many see him to be a hero and a god, others see him as a threat to humanity. Batman is one of those people who thinks he must be stopped, leading to a face off between the two.

Where do I begin with this? The biggest problem is just how stuffed with characters and plots in such a short runtime. It reeked of studio interference. So much could have been trimmed and cut, but was instead kept in because DC are desperately trying to catch up with Marvel, so they can build their own superhero universe and eventually their Justice League film.

Batman and Superman facing off
It doesn't make for great storytelling. There is so much rammed in here that it just seems to jump from scene to scene without any real sense of pace. It was entertaining, don't get me wrong, but a lot of it feels like they were going through a checklist of stuff they needed to add to hint at the wider canon. Far too much dream sequence stuff too, there was some cool visuals, but urgh, it just took away from the film.

I will say I loved the elements of trying to show the fallout of Man of Steel's events. And it even goes into the morality side of being a hero. That has always seemed to be DC's thing, looking at the more mature and adult themes of superhero ethics. Which I love and appreciate, it even made for a compelling first half before it degraded into CGI bombast.

It terms of good. Ben Affleck absolutely killed it as Bruce Wayne and Batman, everyone who complained about his casting must feel embarrassed now. I wouldn't say he was better than Bale, but there certainly is potential and I cannot wait to see what they do with his solo films. His action felt more smooth and Nolan's films and looked inspired by the 'Arkham' game series, which isn't a bad thing. Also, a Batman that killed. THANK YOU, I have been waiting to see Batman do this for so long, I know he has before in previous films, but here it is embraced, he shoots, breaks necks and blows up criminals. Loved the no half measures approach.

Then on the other hand we had Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, who was woefully miscast. He completely hams it up, playing that utter genius psycho with some kind of asperger's. He felt like something from a completely different film. Saying that, he is still the best villain of the film, the final boss of the film (yes, the one that was spoiled in the trailers) is just a generic CGI abomination that looked like utter wank.

Jesse Eisenberg hamming it up as an awful Lex Luthor
Henry Cavill is reliable as he was in Man of Steel. He's pretty wizard and a great Superman, he's good as Clark Kent too, but I find it funny that he's terrible at being a journalist, although it makes sense. I liked seeing a Superman with remorse for some of the things he was inadvertently responsible for. Again, a Superman that kills, fantastic.

The action scenes suffer from the same problems of Man of Steel, it just eventually succumbs into a bombastic CGI fest that just feels plastic and looks fake. The titular fight between the two leads is also pretty disappointing and one sided. Snyder once again delivers some gorgeous visuals that look really nice despite the dark cinematography. I did really love Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL's score, which was awesome and epic.

With not a lot of screen time, Gal Gadot left a decent impact as Wonder Woman, she showed a lot more acting chops than the Fast and Furious series managed to let her. I just got a lot more interested in her solo film.

Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
So yeah, that was Batman v Superman, a messy, but entertaining watch, it's stylish and has a bit going for it, it's just a shame that is was so packed with so much forced side plots and characters in order to build a world, as there could have been a much better and focused film underneath.

6/10 Dans

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is out now on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD now in the UK
Watch the trailer below:
Follow us:
Twitter: @FigmentReviews, @DanBremner1996 and @ArronRoke91
Instagram: @DanBremner and @ArronRoke
YouTube: Figment Reviews
Letterboxd: Dan and Arron 

Facebook
  

Captain America: Civil War (2016) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written on April 29th, 2016*

Here we are, Marvel's biggest film of the year. I was a little sceptical of this, as I've have been suffering some Marvel film fatigue. I was severely disappointed by Age of Ultron and Ant Man was just fine, so I pleasantly surprised by Civil War, which is now probably in my top 3 of the MCU.

After all the carnage caused by most of the previous films of the MCU, the government finally decide it's time to keep The Avengers in check, something not all the team members agree with. Split into two sides, one led by Captain America and the other by Iron Man, they go to "war" while trying to deal with Bucky situation left at the end of The Winter Soldier.

I'll get the bad out the way first. Again, like 90% of the films in the MCU, the villain is forgettable and bland. His motivations are pretty clear at least by the end so it was fairly easy to sympathize with him. It's just we were given enough time with this character played by a fairly talented actor who deserved more. He also didn't get in on a single action scene, which was strange.

Captain America and Iron Man
I will also say it played a little too safe, there was no real or big surprises here. The big reveals are stuff people (Including myself) have predicted since 2014, when the Winter Soldier was released. It didn't bother me too much though, because at the end of the day, I was just there to have a good time and that's what I got, a good time.

It was also a real display of how far some of the main characters have come since the beginning of the MCU. Tony Stark is far more mature and responsible than he used to be and has somehow become the voice of reason in the group. While Captain America has adjusted to the modern day, he even had a smartphone and his morality hasn't changed, but he still does the right thing.

What scared me most about Civil War was the run-time, I had no idea until just a couple of days ago that was 2 and a half hours long and the longest entry in the MCU so far. So I was a little braced for a slog, but I didn't really feel that time at all, despite being extremely tired and worried I was going to nod off throughout.

I was also pretty pleased by the focus on Captain America, despite the large roster of characters to play with, new and old, the focus is firmly on Cap' and his fractured friendship with Bucky that comes to a fairly satisfying conclusion in the finale with some surprisingly high feeling stakes.

Tom Holland as the new Spider-Man
The action is far more inventive than other MCU films, there's no big third act where a whole city is levelled. It all felt personal to the characters and had some really cool moments. The airport fight was awesome and gave each character a time to shine. The Russo Brothers really seem to have a handle on these characters and the action, so I'm excited to see what they do with the two part Avengers: Infinity War.

In terms of story. Not every character felt essential to the plot, but it all made sense to the plot, and any second spent with the gorgeous Elizabeth Olsen was fine by me. With the new additions, Black Panther was fine and his character is introduced with no boring origin story and very quickly into the story which was fine.

Then we have the big new character to the mix: Spider-Man. Who I loved, he stole the show with every scene he was in. He felt far different than the Raimi Trilogy and the misguided 'Amazing' series which was short lived. Here he's fun and full of quips and pop-culture references and he felt like an actual kid, which was nice. And I liked Stark's small, but fatherly like relationship with him, which will explored more in Spidey's own film in the MCU 'Homecoming'. I gotta say, the new aunt May, I did not see that coming, what a lovely bit of bacon.

Civil War was a pleasant surprise overall. A fun, action packed entry in the MCU with smaller action, but higher emotional stakes. It's also pretty much everything Batman V Superman failed to be. Excellent.

8/10 Dans

Captain America: Civil War is out now on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
Watch the trailer below:

Follow us:
Twitter: @FigmentReviews, @DanBremner1996 and @ArronRoke91
Instagram: @DanBremner and @ArronRoke
YouTube: Figment Reviews
Letterboxd: Dan and Arron 

Facebook
 

Friday, 7 April 2017

The Boss Baby (2017) - Film Review

Review:

I'm not entirely sure what I witnessed, but I'm fairly sure I need therapy. The Boss Baby has to be one of the most insane and weirdest kids films I've seen in a while, but at the same time it was so by-the-numbers predictable and mostly just had me bored.

This is probably the only film in the world that'll have a scene involving a seemingly immortal and ageless baby having an acid trip with a 7 year old after they suck on pacifers. I'm not making this up. I sat there in utter amazement at what I was seeing. It was utter insanity.

Sadly, the rest of The Boss Baby doesn't hold up. It's the same, boring stuff the trailers made it out to be. There's a nice message for kids about accepting a new sibling come into your life, but aside from that and some decidely creative animation, there's nothing there.
The Boss Baby and family

The lead character, being a 7 year old boy made way for some creative scenes that elevate the mundanity of what was happening on screen, but it honestly made the kid seem schizophrenic at times. This at least made use of the stellar and colourful animation, which was top-notch, I don't really have anything to criticise about it, I mean, it's no Pixar, but what is?

Alec Baldwin gives a performance as weird and wonderful as Kevin Spacey in last year's 'Nine Lives' with a game voice performance far, far above a man of his talents. Steve Buscemi is even here too as the one of strangest villains in recent memory.

I have nothing else to say about The Boss Baby, it's as weird as it was safe, which is a contradictory statement I know, but there's no other way to explain it. It's a film kids will love, but adults will be bored by.

4/10 Dans

The Boss Baby is out now in cinemas in the UK 
Watch the trailer below:
  

Follow us:
Twitter: @FigmentReviews, @DanBremner1996 and @ArronRoke91
Instagram: @DanBremner and @ArronRoke
YouTube: Figment Reviews
Letterboxd: Dan and Arron 

Facebook

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The Expendables (2010) - Film Review

Review:

I remember being excited to see The Expendables in 2010, as a 13 year old boy who was raised on '80s and '90s action films on VHS would have been. It came out and I loved it. I grew up a little, I enjoyed the sequels, but upon revisiting the first, I've got to be honest, this is a piece of shit.

The concept is sound, mixing up and making an ensemble film of your favourite action stars of the '80s and '90s and some from the modern day. You have Stallone, Statham, Terry Crews, Arnie, Willis, Jet Li, Mickey Rourke and Dolph Lundgren. Plus some crappy wrestling stars who do straight-to-DVD action films like Stone Cold Steve Austin....

This should have a sure-fire masterpiece, a tribute to the '80s and '90s, a time where action cinema was at its best. Instead what we have is a complete mess of a film. The action is so boring and lifeless, which is incredible, as this was directed by Stallone, who just 2 prior to this, delivered the incredibly violent and visceral final Rambo installment.

In The Expendables however, the action is all drowned out by the poor and dark lighting that gave me Vietnam style flashbacks to watching Alien Vs Predator: Requiem. It is just such a waste of all the talent involved. There are the odd moment of decent action, Terry Crews with the AA-12 shotgun was pretty gory, as was the opening scene with a grenade launcher.

What hurts The Expendables so much too is the poor CGI. Not just the odd off looking explosion, but every single drop of blood looks terrible. I'm convinced not a single blood squib was used, which is just an insult to everything this film tries to stand for. If you're going to try and recreate the '80s/'90s, then use blood squibs, then look so much better, and everyone knows it.
Terry Crews and Sylvester Stallone
I was never expecting much in the story department with this film, but I was hoping for something more compelling than this, and a better villain than... Eric Roberts? Yeah, he's in this as some rogue ex-CIA agent. He leaves next to no impact. The script makes no sense. There was obviously going to be cheesy one-liners, but nothing this pathetic and lazy. The character-arc of Dolph Lundgren's character is one of the most inane things I've ever seen.

I never felt I got to know or even care about any of The Expendables either. We learn so little about any of these characters, aside from the fact Stallone is the leader, Statham uses knives, Jet Li knows martial arts and Terry Crews likes shotguns, oh, and he has a cutthroat razor with his name spelt wrong on it. It's just a monumental waste of everyone involved and no one has a chance to really shine. The main focus is Stallone and Statham, with no one else getting much chance for screentime.

The Expendables is a failure on almost every level. It has a cool idea with its cast, but beyond that, it's a piss poor action film that feels like it easily could have gone straight-to-DVD.

3/10 Dans

The Expendables is out now on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
Watch the trailer below:

Follow us:
Twitter: @FigmentReviews, @DanBremner1996 and @ArronRoke91
Instagram: @DanBremner and @ArronRoke
YouTube: Figment Reviews
Letterboxd: Dan and Arron 

Facebook
 

Mission Impossible - Rogue Nation (2015) - Film Review

Review: *Originally written August 7th, 2015* "Cruising" Ditching the cartoony fun that Brad Bird bought to the franchise...